You might not know it, but there’s a growing number of homeless youth in our area. They’re sometimes referred to as invisible, because they blend in so well, you wouldn’t even know they’re homeless. Lisa Matte works at the Jervis Library in Rome and sees firshand how easy it is to be misidentified.
"I know from experience that sometimes the people you think are homeless because they fit your stereotype of what a homeless person looks like. They’re not necessarily homeless, and the ones who are don’t fit your stereotypes."
A number of them start out couch surfing. Staying at a friend’s house for as long as they can. Eventually when they do have to turn to government agencies for help, they often run into roadblocks. Integrated Community Alternatives Network representative Jodi Singleton talked about what its like for a homeless youth.
"I would have to say to them you have to go to a shelter. That’s the only way I can help you with rapid free housing, and that is terrifying for our youth. To go to a Rescue Mission with grown men. Go to a man’s house with grown women. Just absolutely terrifying. Right."
The summit is helping these agencies work better together, and identify where there’s a need.
"The case management services is really still a big gap. I’m always getting students every day that say: Ok, I’m going to stay at a friend’s house. That’s where they’re comfortable, but that doesn’t last, and they’re at high risk."
High risk of child trafficking and other crimes, so it’s important to get someone help as quickly as possible. Stephen Darman is the Chairman at the Mohawk Valley Housing and Homeless Assistance Coalition.
"Kids are powerless. They’re powerless, and they need adult allies to really help them understand and navigate the fragmented services we’ve put together to support them."
If you are in need of assistance you can call 315 624-9930. This is a 24 hour hotline